There seems to be a flood of "spotlight" biographical movies dealing with aspects of particularly the twentieth century in this new century (and millenium). It can both be seen as a way of tributing persons and events of that revolutionary century but also as bit of an admission that it is hard to find good new stories to tell.
It tends to be on the safe side of storytelling and rarely gives any kind of new insight or a seemingly honest description of whoever it portrays. Rather they become vehicles for presenting mainstream political correctness and servants of peoples prejudices. "Marilyn" is no exception and to compare it to another similar kind of movie I would compare it to "Hitchcock", which deals with the same era of western history and in many ways sexual "liberation", enabled by the cinema.
Marilyn Monroe has been cast opposite Lawrence Olivier in "The Prince and The Showgirl" and basically for one reason only, as Olivier reveals in a fit of rage due to Monroe´s notorious absence and unpreparedness. "Just be sexy, that is what you do right" as he yells.
As any cinephile will probably tell you, even in this age of social justice, Marilyn Monroe was cast for her almost mythological sex appeal, which she herself both exploited and hated. She was sat between two chairs in a way and even if she tried her best to do some method acting, as the movie tries to point at, she was always ever considered a sex goddess and nothing else. At the same time she apparently tried to stay sane by marrying a writer like Arthur Miller, but his introvertness cannot hide that he is probably just as hooked on her for her looks.
Into this scenario enters a young, ambitious third director, Colin Clark who serves as a go-getter for the film company and soon ends up involved in taking care of Monroe´s logistics and a little later, her emotional state so to say. It does not take long for Clark to be severely infatuated with the magnetic sexuality of Marilyn and slowly, as he gets more and more involved in the situation, develops a mix of boyish hots for her and a need to play the white knight who protects her.
But just as he surrenders himself to the fantasy of actually becoming her "boyfriend", she pulls away and exposes how she is quite incapable of having any meaningful relationship with a man. She knows how to attract them almost just by flashing a smile and make a little wiggle of the hip, but she is as emotionally mature as a 12 year old teenage girl. Even more so than the sexually blinded Clark.
Let me say first off, that all bases are covered here. The cinematography is conservative but solid. The actors are generally good to great, particularly Branagh who adds a sense of seriousness into this rather thin story. They even managed to dig up old Jerek Jacobi, to give it all a serious "Shakespearian" feel. I have nothing against Jacobi but it seems they tried to pull all the safe tricks to make this look like a "serious" movie.
But I am left with the strong notion of ... "why did I need to see this movie ?". It could work as a simplistic Marilyn biopic, but in that case, a week is just to short a timeframe to present any meaningful aspects of her life or persona. It could be a timeslice of the late 50s period leading into cinematic revolutions like the French new wave and sexual expositions like that of Hitchcock coming to the surface during these years. But no. The Prince and The Showgirl has nothing to offer either as a film in it self or the use of Monroe as a sexual cast in it. It is not explored in any way at all.
Even if the events are based on actual happenings, extracted from books written by the Clark, he only serves as a sort of human MacGuffin to get things rolling. He is not at all present in the movie as any kind of engaging character and it does not help that he has this suppressed, teenage-like fumbling way about him. It may have been his access card into Monroe´s life in a way as he seems harmless to her, but as a viewer I have a hard time identifying with him.
The movie basically ticks of what is expected to be happening here. Throws some decent actors at me and then expect me to be satisfied. Well I am not and there is practically nothing to extract from this one other than.. I was somewhat entertained but in the end it felt rather empty. Even if the movie tries to give us some insight into Monroe´s life it does not feel believable, since there was not really anything interesting about her in the first place ... except for her incredibly sexy looks.
It comes not recommended, as it only plays safe and never really tries to get into anything that could be considered interesting territory. The Clark story is so thin and pathetic it is hard to believe that it actually should have happened. But in any case, you can easily live without spending time and money on this one.